In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the forced cancellation of mass gatherings, the South African Innovation Summit (SAIS) will be presented in a new and virtual way this year, with the first ever digital SA Innovation Summit due to be held from September 30 to October 1.
The SAIS is a major public gathering on the South African calendar. It showcases, connects, capacitates, and originates startup talent from Africa to the world, having done so for 13 years, making possible billions of rands worth of deals for African entrepreneurs.
“We do not know how long human behaviour will be affected this way but decided that we cannot cancel our event as it is now even more important than ever to support innovation and tech entrepreneurs. We will go digital and leverage on all of the benefits that it offers,” comments SAIS chairperson Audrey Verhaeghe.
The SAIS Virtual 365 edition will include a programme comprising business matching and networking, pitching dens, showcasing, plenary discussions and workshops.
However, it will not be simply digitising the summit experience but offering it in a new way. The event will be extended into an entrepreneurial online community where matching, networking, learning and inspiration will continue throughout the year.
For 365 days, startups, investors, business partners and supporters can continuously network and be matched to further catalyse innovation in the ecosystem. The SAIS, well-known for high-quality entrepreneurial competitions, will showcase these startups during the event and within the 365 SAIS community.
In addition, the SAIS note that entries for the Inventors Garage have been opened. This competition offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs with a working prototype or product from a proven concept to pre-commercialisation to exhibit virtually, and gain access to funding or incubation, market exposure and business support.
The Africa Cup is a competition for startups with high-growth potential in all tech-enabled sectors from around the world to showcase their products and services, gain market exposure, and secure support and investment, while the Investment ticket is aimed at companies looking for R2-million to R7-million worth of investment for equity.
This year, the SAIS will also introduce a new programme – the Fem-In-Tech Development Programme. Fem-In-Tech is aimed at equipping South African women entrepreneurs with the skills needed to run a successful business and create opportunities to connect with investors.
This is a collaboration between the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the SAIS. It is open to all women-owned startups with tech and tech-enabled solutions at the prototype, pre-commercial or early commercialisation stage looking for investment and other networks.
Top applicants of the Africa Cup, Inventors Garage and the Fem-In-Tech programmes will go on an international virtual investor tour, made possible by Anza Capital. They will have the opportunity to pitch to investors in the US and Europe, and receive funding offers to grow and scale their business.
Verhaeghe says that there are many positive things about going virtual, one being that it will make the SAIS accessible to more people than ever before.
“Covid-19 is giving us a chance to build the offerings we always wanted to. It’s painful to change but this is a chance for us to play in a larger space and make a difference in the world.”